Yesterday I made the trip up to Saitama Prefecture, specifically Aoki, home of the Kawaguchi bamboo rod, a traditional style of fishing rod recognised by the government of Japan as an official ‘traditional art/craft’ (dentoh kohgeihin). The area is historically famous for its bamboo and the large number of craftsmen who live in the area to this day, making fishing rods in the traditional style.
It was a rainy, dreary day but the rod craftsman I was visiting made me very welcome, and I drooled over the huge selection of excellent quality bamboo he had for sale. I could have spent literally hours there, going over the bundles of bamboo till my hands were black. Since he was obviously working I did not want to spend too long there, so I picked up two varieties of bamboo that are very hard to get in Tokyo, and also a set of special metal blades which my toolbox is lacking, but you can’t really find for sale very easily. I wish I had them last week when I was fitting my landing net handle! It would have made the job much easier. The bamboo was half the price of that on sale in Tokyo, and of a higher quality. One of them I will use to make the handle for my shirogisu whiting rod, and the other, I am still undecided; maybe another landing net. The two thin pieces are of a variety of bamboo rod makers called kouya-chiku, and these are used to make herabuna rods.
We spoke a little about the kinds of fishing I am into, where the different kinds of bamboo grow and lamented the lack of good quality rod bamboo available these days. I also picked up some hints about making rods for herabuna, and then made my excuses to leave. As a parting gift the master craftsman made me a very generous present of a piece of baleen and two lengths of ‘onion’ bamboo and some instructional booklets on the process of making Kawaguchi rods. Even after years here in Japan I am always amazed at how friendly and generous many of the locals are.
This bamboo is not suitable for making rods for obvious reasons, but instead is used to fashion rod rests or landing net handles, especially for herabuna fishing. They need a good drying out and then straightening out over a fire, but I look forward to experimenting with them in the future. I will certainly be visiting Aoki again to buy bamboo for my rod making.